Avoiding Getting Sick with the Change of Seasons

A cool shift has already started as early as this morning. Summer is almost over.
The body is really great at adapting to seasonal changes when you feel healthy. However, if you feel run down, stressed, exhausted or feel like you’ve been fighting off a cold for the last couple of weeks, the change of seasons can really upset it’s ability to adapt.

In Chinese medicine, you have this incredible type of energy called Wei Qi, translated as Defensive Qi, that circulates in the outermost layer of your body. It’s kind of like the security guard to pathogens entering your body.

When you are really healthy, this energy is thought to extend further than the skin, kind of like a protective shield around your body.

It is continuously fighting off pathogenic attacks but if it can’t match the strength of the pathogen, you unfortunately get sick.

The change of seasons is almost like the ‘shift change’ of one security guard to another. There’s a little gap of time where immunity is not as strong as the body adapts to changing environments.

However, you can strengthen this immunity by improving your general wellbeing. A balanced lifestyle and diet is the ideal way to improve your Wei Qi and protect your body against pathogens.

So over the next week or so, aim to do some of these things:

  • ensure you get 8-9 hours sleep each night and be asleep by 11pm (Wei Qi needs time to be nourished)
  • have a big glass of water first thing in the morning, before you doing anything else – with lemon if you can
  • ensure you are eating 5-7 serves of vegetables per day
  • avoid cold foods – especially for breakfast
  • drink peppermint tea and ginger tea – great for boosting immunity
  • enjoy low intensity aerobic exercise and yoga/tai chi or qi gong
  • practise mindfulness to help slow down your body, save energy for immunity instead of stress
  • keep with your regular acupuncture treatments – all acupuncture treatments strengthen qi, including Wei Qi. Many people notice they stop getting as many colds with their treatments, even if I’ve been treating their back pain!
Lastly, and most importantly, RUG UP – this is a big problem on the GC, going from summer to winter. Start getting out your closed in shoes, slippers, cardis, jackets and scarves. Start wearing singlets under your work shirts and keeping your slippers on around the house. Keep your neck, low back, low abdo and ankles warm as this is where pathogens enter your body. Let your clothes protect you first so your Wei Qi doesn’t have to work so hard.

If you do think you are starting to feel sick, pop in for a treatment. Acupuncture works so well in the very early stages of getting a cold. It actually supports your Wei Qi to push invading pathogens back out instead of just masking symptoms. Kind of like improving the strength and training of your ‘security guard’.

I can honestly say I do this. If I wake up with a sore throat, I make an appointment with my acupuncturist that day. This has happened twice in the last month as my exposure to people being sick is increasing. I haven’t taken a cold and flu tablet for at least 10 years now. They don’t help very much anyway.

Acupuncture, rest and nourishing foods is the best cure for a cold :)

Prenatal Vitamin Comparison Chart

Prenatal vitamins can be such a contentious subject and for some reason, this has been a project of mine for a little while. Whilst I have plans for finding the source of each brand’s ingredients, the recommended daily dosages, the additional fillers added and any research supporting each. I think I need to send something out in the meantime. And here it is (below).

Firstly, I need to make this very clear, that no single prenatal vitamin is going to be perfect for everyone. It is suggested for all women to take prenatal vitamins because we are lacking certain minerals and vitamins – due to our diet or digestive systems and the quality of foods available. Although unless  you have had this investigated through blood tests, you won’t know your state of mineral, vitamin and nutrient status.

Some brands have been particularly great at marketing their product to us and to doctors, but does that mean they are the best? Maybe yes, maybe not. The chart helps determine this for you.

I think it’s important when choosing the best vitamin for you too, you understand more about your diagnosis and health. If you have no deficiencies in minerals, vitamins or nutrients you may not need a prenatal vitamin. However, if you’re iron deficient, you’ll need a vitamin with iron. If you have some signs of PCOS, inositol may be helpful. If you’re tired and have other signs of B vitamin deficiency, maybe you need more of those.

Of course there is the option of adding other supplements on top of your prenatal vitamins. Which is something you can consider as well. Keeping in mind the added cost.

I just like you to be informed and then you can make your own decisions about your health. I also want to be able to make a recommendation based on your individual health status when asked.

I am really happy to hear any feedback (positive or critical), suggestions or even another brand to add.

Paige.

tpow-prenatal-vitamin-comparison

 

CoQ10 and it’s Role in Reproduction and IVF

There is a fair bit of confusion surrounding CoQ10 and what its role is in reproduction. The confusion is because good quality evidence for dosage and length of time taking this supplement aren’t easy to find. Another reason for the confusion, is that there are two types of CoQ10 – ubiquinol and ubiquinone. They are both important but Ubiquinol is more readily used by the body.

A brief biology background on CoQ10. Within each cell in the body, there exists a small organelle called mitochondria. This part of the cell houses the energy required for that cell to function. It uses that energy for metabolism, transport and division. Mitochondria are similar to your petrol tank in your car and CoQ10 is like your petrol.

Each egg cell and each sperm cell has a mitochrondria and therefore requires CoQ10 for energy. The egg needs the energy to keep it moving through the fallopian tubes and a sperm cell needs energy to swim towards the egg, as well as the energy to fertilise an egg. The egg and sperm combined also need energy to continue cell division so they can form a healthy embryo and hopefully a viable fetus and then beautiful baby.

Even though this process is incredibly microscopic, it involves a huge amount of cellular energy to work. I suppose it would be similar to running a marathon….but for cells. If they don’t have enough energy, any stage of the fertilisation process could be affected.

So dosing CoQ10 can help with this process. There are very few contraindications for taking CoQ10, so it appears safe for most people. Those on warfarin do need to consult their specialist before taking it. I always recommend both male and female partners to take the supplement if possible and I generally suggest three months of taking it to make any significant changes. This advice is based on very preliminary research which can be updated when we have more information available. The dosage does depend on the person and their age.

For some people, taking it at night can keep them awake, so it is often best to take first thing in the morning.

Clinically, I have seen some great results with this supplement. It is safe and effective and has very few side effects. I would have difficulty not recommending this supplement for couples going through fertility treatment, especially if they are over 40 years old.

Image result for bioceuticals ubiquinol 300mh

Aging and Environmental Factors Affect Embryo Growth

Recently, a comprehensive article was published in the respected journal, Fertility and Sterility detailing the effects of aging and environmental factors on egg, sperm and embryo growth and development. When you look at the statistics of IVF, the numbers aren’t great. Out of all eggs that are retrieved, only 7% of those will result in a full term delivery. So as you can imagine, there is a lot of research looking into how that number can be improved….not surprisingly many of the points relate to ways of being healthier in general but there was some interesting new findings. The article was technical and a bit tedious so I have done the hard work for you and summarised the important points below.

Aging and the Environment for Egg, Sperm and Embryo Health

  • positive environmental factors include; androgen supplementation (testosterone), healthy diet, exercise, nutritional supplements and pyschological interventions
  • negative environment factors include; aging, reduced androgens, oxidative stress, obesity, smoking, alcohol, oxidative stress
  • CoQ10 – antioxidant found to be very important for cellular energy and energy for cell division, reducing CoQ10 was associated with a reduction in the number of follicles, the recommended daily dosage is 600mg per day for at least 2 months prior to IVF
  • Androgen (eg, testosterone) – adrenal DHEA and testosterone decline with age and are associated with reduced number of follicles, increased cell death and reduced egg competence
  • Antioxidants – reduced antioxidants reduce embryo quality, affects sperm DNA fragmentation and it’s recommended for all men over the age of 40 years old to be supplementing, vitamin C is the most cost effective antioxidant, increase pomegranate, berries, chocolate, espresso, fruits and vegetables, turmeric, cumin, ginger and oregano
  • Obesity – associated with high level of oxidative stress in follicular fluid, moderate exercise was associated with 3 fold increase in clinical pregnancy, weight loss is recommended as well as supplementation of omega 3 and antioxidants
  • Smoking – for the female smoker it can reduce IVF success by half and increase miscarriage rate by one fourth, a similar trend was found even with donor eggs so there is a uterine effect as well as ovarian, for the male partner smoking is associated with reduction in IVF success, results in severe oxidative stress, recommended to high does antioxidants and quit smoking 3-6 months before considering IVF
  • Alcohol – reduces IVF success and increases miscarriage rates, suggested to avoid throughout IVF cycle
  • Caffeine – conflicting research, advise to limit consumption
  • AGEs (advanced glycation end product) – toxic end products from high glucose diets and ingestion of food at high temperatures, suggested to boil, microwave or poach food to cook to avoid
  • BPA (bisphenol A) – a chemical found in plastic containers, canned food linings and credit card receipts, high levels found to show lower implantation rates, also associated with miscarriage and reduced sperm quality
  • Exercise – moderate exercise recommended, found to improve egg and sperm function and IVF outcomes, also reduces oxidative stress, vigorous exercise can however reduce IVF success although not in obese women, men cycle more than 5 hours per week was found to reduce semen quality, proposing increased heat as the reason
  • Diet – recommendations include less red meat, less saturated fats, more seafood, more fruit and vegetables – similar to a Mediterranean diet
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – exist in large quantities in sperm membranes, early research shows it improves IVF outcomes, suggested to supplement with 1800 mg per day for 6 months to increase total sperm, motility and morphology
  • Stress – stress of infertility has been compared to having a diagnosis of HIV, depression and anxiety are negative factors for pregnancy outcomes, negative life events 12 months before IVF cycle predicted failure and reduced number of eggs retrieved, suggested that stress shifts blood flow to the heart, brain and muscles and away from non essential organs like ovaries and uterus, decreases in anxiety were associated with the greatest improvement in pregnancy rates, suggested treatments included cognitive behavioural therapy and mind body sessions to work on relaxation, stress management, lifestyle recommendations and group support, also to deal with cycle failures

These are all factors you can include in your IVF cycle to maximise your pregnancy outcomes. Acupuncture works well to improve blood flow and reduce your stress response to improve your pregnancy outcome. I cannot stress the importance of a healthy diet and good quality supplements in really improving your cellular energy. Science can only take you so far. Never feel like there is nothing else you can do to improve your chances of having a family through natural fertility or IVF.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like further clarification about any of these points.

Paige :-)

sperm_and_egg__how_i_become_me_by_rjace1014-d5atupm

Moxibustion…what, why, how?

It’s a really common question in clinic…what is moxa, closely followed by ‘what does it do?’

Moxa is a herb and moxibustion is an ancient technique which involves the burning of mugwort to promote healing and wellbeing. It is found underneath the leaves of the mugwort plant. In its natural form it is a small spongy herb. Like all other herbs, moxa has specific healing properties which include blood moving, warming, removal of cold stagnation, pain reduction and strengthening the energy of your internal organs.

The Chinese symbol for acupuncture literally translates as ‘acupuncture and moxibustion’, identifying the importance of these two therapies used together. They are a Yin and Yang pair. Acupuncture can only redirect energy which already exists in your body. It can move excess energy, remove heat, redistribute fluid, relax muscle, alleviate pain and settle ‘hyperactive’ energy. However, it can’t build energy. Building energy requires adding something extra to the system. Similar to food and breath, moxibustion adds energy but in the form of warmth to stimulate digestion, build blood and endometrium lining, build organ energy, eliminate cold and warm meridians. Used together, they both build energy and redistribute it to heal and promote wellbeing.

The best thing about moxibustion is how incredibly relaxing you feel. It warms your body and dilates blood vessels to help you feel an overall calmness.

Woman's back with burning moxa on acupuncture needles, close-up

How is hair loss and reduced milk supply after childbirth related?

These two symptoms seem like two completely separate problems, however in Chinese medicine they can be easily explained by the loss of blood from childbirth.

Blood nourishes the head to give you glossy, shiny, thick hair. Notice how during pregnancy, your hair seems like that of goddesses? This is because of the increased blood supply your body has to support your new ‘growth’. It fills all the vessels in your body including your head, giving you amazing hair. However, once you give birth, you lose a large component of this blood and it can take 6-24 months to regenerate depending on your diet and lifestyle.

But how is hair on your head related to your milk supply? Well in Chinese medicine, your milk supply is actually a special component of Blood. So if you’ve lost a lot of blood (and worse still, haemorrhaged during birth) and your body can’t keep up with demands, you will not have as much supply. This is mainly noticed when you get your period too, because you are then losing even more blood.

So what’s the answer? Very soon after childbirth, you need to start nourishing yourself with delicious, warm, hearty food which specifically build blood. In China, grandmothers often make a special soup, however these days you can start taking some Chinese herbs which do something very similar.

Acupuncture can also get your organs working the best they can energetically so your body can turn the food and herbs into good quality blood and energy for your body and your baby.